I’ve fallen in love with the library again.
Guffaws, eh? Thanks a lot.
Peoria just completed a $9 million renovation of their downtown branch, the first one since it was built in 1968. There was concern (among me, myself and I) that they would half-ass the rehab after voters approved a dressing-up instead of any new construction.
Let the record show that I was wrong.
Very little of the old library is still recognizable. One of the most touted features is a giant opening they cut right through the center of the bunker-like building. Light streams down from a skylight all the way to the first floor. There’s new furniture with nooks for reading or writing while enjoying a prime view of the downtown scene.
Books seem easier to find, too. I wandered around the second floor and wanted to grab a football-hold of text. A two-week loan period stopped me, though. Four weeks would be dangerous (I’m a habitual late-fine payer.)
I only have two quibbles. One: I really, really dislike self-checkouts. Grocery stores, video stores, and soon – hospitals? I understand that it saves personnel’s time to help patrons with finding books and such, but there’s something satisfying about talking to someone in a place where talking is generally discouraged. Despite this, I’m mighty impressed by the RFID system they’re using. Thrown down your stack of books on a pad and it checks them out in one big batch via radio wave magic. My second quibble seems whiny now. Down with coffee vending machines!
A big part of my childhood was spent in libraries, especially when my mom was still working. I’d walk the short distance from my school to the Westlink Branch in Wichita, Kan., staying clear of the fiction, but guzzling non-fiction until told to stop. Technical books were my mainstay, with young Adam easily reading a good 75-100 pages accidentally while sitting on his legs in an aisle. I even volunteered one summer, shelving books and accomplishing other mindless tasks.
The downtown branch of the Wichita library was remarkable; multi-storied, with the main fiction collection in a huge three-story atrium. It was a rare trip for the Gerik family, but one I begged and pleaded to take as often as possible.
Once off at college, I became a big fan of the Hays, Kan. library. Although serving a town of only 20,000 people, it remains an old girlfriend that I can’t forget. I remember reading something about their funding per capita being astronomical, easily double or triple that of other cities. An attempt to numb the isolation of Western Kansas? I’m remain a bitter man for the rest of my life. Peoria doesn’t even have the new Steve Martin book, “An Object of Beauty.”
So we shall see if Peorians continue to pop inside once the newness wears off. These river city people are notorious for considering the downtown area “dangerous” and a place to avoid after dark. The library has followed suit, shutting its doors at 6pm.